One thing we absolutely love about the Japanese scene is the willingness of their prospects to step up in class and risk their unbeaten records early on. Sometimes it works brilliantly, whilst other times it does fail to develop a hopeful in the way their team would hope.
On April 5th we see talented Japanese Middleweight prospect Riku Kunimoto (3-0, 1) taking a huge step up in class to take on the heavy handed Shoma Fukumoto (12-3, 10), in what could be the best bout on the card, and is certainly the most interesting on paper give the risk that Kunimoto is taking against a hard hitting and relatively seasoned campaigner, who can ill afford another set back.
The 21 year old Kunimoto was a notable amateur before heading to the professional ranks last year with Mutoh Gym, as one of their big new hopes. On debut, last August, he looked really sharp, taking a wide decision over Korean Kyung Wook Kwon. There was a lack of power from him at times, but he was quick, accurate, able to find holes to head and body and showed some really nice flashes of offensive brilliance, as well as good defensive fundamentals. His style was very much that of a pressure boxer, bringing the heat with his footwork and high guard, then countering as Kwon tried to create space. Just a few months after his debut he would take on domestic foe Toshihiro Kai, and show a little more spite on his shots, and a few more wrinkles to his game before forcing the referee to save Kai in the neutral corner.
At just 21 it's clear that Kunimoto is not the complete product. Looking at him it appears he's carrying a little bit of "puppy fat", he hasn't matured into a fully grown man yet, but technically he's very talented, a very quick and exciting fighter. If he can develop his "man strength" in the next year or two he could quickly become a notable player on the often over-looked Japanese Middleweight scene. A big question here however is whether he's ready for Fukumoto.
Aged 28 Fukumoto is a 6 year pro, a brutal puncher and someone's who has shown some real touches of class. Sadly he has also shown a lack of durability, with all 3 of his losses coming by stoppage. Whilst a loss to Kazuto Takesako is totally understandable, he has twice been stopped by tough Filipino journeyman Arnel Tinampay, which is less understandable despite Tinampay's record against Japanese fighters being an impressive one. Fukumoto is a strong, powerful fighter, who has a solid jab but relatively slow hands and feet. He's a tall and rangy fighter but often tries to get inside, rather than using his reach and size properly. If he was to fight at range and make the most of his size he would likely be a lot more successful and find it easier to avoid big shots on the chin.
Whilst the chin of Fukumoto is one of his key problems he doesn't really do a huge amount to help himself. He's open defensively, drops his hands when hurt and doesn't seem to hold on to survive. His hands drop when he throws and there are gaps when his guard is up. He fights like a fighter who believes his power will scare opponents into not throwing at him, but unfortunately his defensive issues actually make fighters more willing to let shots go and this is an issue when facing an opponent who knows what they are doing, as Takesako and Tinampay did.
Coming in to this we do feel Kunimoto has the skills to take home a clear win over Fukumoto, and to do so by decision. There is however always a risk that Fukumoto could land a bomb, and change everything with one shot. We think Kunimoto will be wary of the power of Fukumoto, and fight smart to avoid exchanges, but there is always a risk here, and that should make for an edge of your seat bout, as most Fukumoto fights tend to be.
For fans interested in watching footage of Kunimoto ahead of this contest, his first and third bouts are available on Boxing Raise.
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.